Terence James Stannus Gray (14 September 1895 – 5 January 1986), better known by the pen name Wei Wu Wei, was a 20th-century mystic, Taoist philosopher, and writer. Between the years 1958 and 1974 eight books and articles in various periodicals appeared under the pseudonym “Wei Wu Wei” (Wu wei, a Taoist term which translates as “action that is non-action”). The identity of the author was not revealed at the time of publication for reasons outlined in the Preface to the first book, Fingers Pointing Towards the Moon (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1958). Eventually it was revealed that the author had been Terence Gray.
Terence James Stannus Gray was born in Felixstowe, Suffolk, England on 14 September 1895, the son of Harold Stannus Gray and a member of a well-established Irish family. He was raised on an estate at the Gog-Magog Hills outside Cambridge, England. He received a thorough education at Ascham St Vincent’s School, Eastbourne, Eton and Oxford University. Early in life he pursued an interest in Egyptology which culminated in the publication of two books on ancient Egyptian history and culture in 1923. This was followed by a period of involvement in the arts in Britain in the 1920s and 1930s as a theorist, theatrical producer, creator of radical “dance-dramas”, publisher of several related magazines and author of two related books. He was a major influence on many noted dramatists, poets and dancers of the day, including his cousin Ninette de Valois, founder of the Royal Ballet (which in fact had its origins in his own dance troupe at the Cambridge Festival Theatre which he leased from 1926 to 1933).
He maintained his family’s racehorses in England and Ireland and in 1957 his horse Zarathrustra won the Ascot Gold Cup, ridden by renowned jockey Lester Piggott in the first of his eleven wins of that race.
After he had apparently exhausted his interest in the theatre, his thoughts turned towards philosophy and metaphysics. This led to a period of travel throughout Asia, including time spent at Sri Ramana Maharshi’s ashram in Tiruvannamalai, India. In 1958, at the age of 63, he saw the first of the “Wei Wu Wei” titles published. The next 16 years saw the appearance of seven subsequent books, including his final work under the further pseudonym “O.O.O.” in 1974. During most of this later period he maintained a residence with his wife Natalia Bagration-Imeretinsky in Monaco. He is believed to have known, among others, Lama Anagarika Govinda, Dr. Hubert Benoit, John Blofeld, Douglas Harding, Robert Linssen, Arthur Osborne, Robert Powell and Dr. D. T. Suzuki. He died in 1986 at the age of 90.
Wei Wu Wei’s influence, while never widespread, has been profound upon many of those who knew him personally, upon those with whom he corresponded, among them British mathematician and author G. Spencer-Brown and Galen Sharp, as well as upon many who have read his works, including Ramesh Balsekar.
It is apparent from his writings that “Wei Wu Wei” had studied in some depth both Eastern and Western philosophy and metaphysics, as well as the more esoteric teachings of all the great religions. It can also be understood from the writings that he regarded himself as merely one of many seeking so-called “liberation”, the works themselves being seen in part as a record of this quest. The attitude adopted towards the writings is perhaps best indicated by the following quote from an introductory note to Open Secret (Hong Kong University Press, 1965):
“Why are you unhappy? Because 99.9 per cent of everything you think, and of everything you do, is for yourself — and there isn’t one.”
Excerpts from his writings:
“The ocean moves, not because it wishes to move or because it knows that it is wise or good: it moves involuntarily, unconscious of movement. It is thus that you also will return to Tao, and when you have returned, you will not know it, because you yourself would have become Tao.”
“It is less what one is that should matter, than what one is not.”
“The qualities we possess should never be a matter for satisfaction, but the qualities we have discarded.”
“It is not for us to search but to remain still, to achieve Immobility not Action.”
“There is no becoming. ALL IS.”
“The Saint is a man who disciplines his ego. The Sage is a man who rids himself of his ego.”
“It is only the artificial ego that suffers. The man who has transcended his false ‘me’ no longer identifies with his suffering.”
“We ourselves are not an illusory part of Reality; rather are we Reality itself illusorily conceived.”
“Are we not wasps who spend all day in a fruitless attempt to traverse a window-pane – while the other half of the window is wide open?”
“Detachment is a state, it is not a totalisation of achieved indifferences.”
“The notion that human life has greater value than any other form of life is both unjustifiable and arrogant.”
“Wise men don’t judge: they seek to understand.”
“How many of the ways (disciplines, exercises, practices) recommended as helpful, or even necessary, for the attainment of Satori are not in fact consequences of that state erroneously suggested as means?”
“There seem to two kinds of searchers: those who seek to make their ego something other than it is, i.e. holy, happy, unselfish (as though you could make a fish unfish), and those who understand that all such attempts are just gesticulation and play-acting, that there is only one thing that can be done, which is to disidentify themselves with the ego, by realising its unreality, and by becoming aware of their eternal identity with pure being.”
“Living should be perpetual and universal benediction.”
“Doctrines, scriptures, sutras, essays, are not to be regarded as systems to be followed. They merely contribute to understanding. They should be for us a source of stimulation, and nothing more… Adopted, rather than used as a stimulus, they are a hindrance.”
“Of the many earnest, and how earnest, people we may observe reading, attending lectures, studying and practising disciplines, devoting their energies to the attainment of a liberation which is by definition unattainable, how many are not striving via the ego-concept which is itself the only barrier between what they think they are and that which they wish to become but always have been and always will be?”
“Play your part in the comedy, but don’t identify yourself with your role!”
“On the phenomenal plane we seek pleasure and the avoidance of pain. On the noumenal plane we know the absence of both – which is Bliss.”
“When you give a shilling to a beggar – do you realise that you are giving it to yourself?
“When you help a lame dog over a stile – do you realise that you yourself are being helped?
When you kick a man when he is down – do you realise that you are kicking yourself?
Give him another kick – if you deserve it!”
“Reality alone exists – and that we are. All the rest is only a dream, a dream of the One Mind, which is our mind without the ‘our’. Is it so hard to accept? Is it so difficult to assimilate and to live?”
“Even the intellectual understanding of the inexistence of our ‘selves’ is a rare and bitter attainment which few even attempt. And that is only the elimination round which qualifies us for access to Reality… Intellectual understanding should be not indispensable to a ‘simple’ mind, but, with our conditioning, it would seem to be an almost inevitable preliminary.”
“Past and Future are a duality of which Present is the reality. The now-moment alone is eternal and real.”
“Spontaneity is being present in the present.
Spontaneity by-passes the processes of the conceptual (aspect of) mind.
Reintegration with Nature, which we are, is the recovery of spontaneity.”
“What we know as ‘life’ is the analytical realization in the seriality of time of our eternal reality.”
“We have only to eliminate the ego-notion by succeeding in the difficult task of understanding that it does not exist except as a notion.”
“What is your trouble? Mistaken identity.”
“Truth is that which lies in a dimension beyond the reach of thought.
Whole-mind has no ‘thoughts’, thoughts are split-mind.”
“Realisation is a matter of becoming conscious of that which is already realised.”
“A man who is seeking for realisation is not only going round searching for his spectacles without realising that they are on his nose all the time, but also were he not actually looking through them he would not be able to see what he is looking for!”
“It is necessary to understand that I Am, iIn order that I may know that I Am Not, so that, at last, I may realise that, I Am Not, therefore I Am.”
“We do not possess an ‘ego’. We are possessed by the idea of one.”
“All the evil in the world, and all the unhappiness, comes from the I-concept.”
“This ‘real’ nature with whose revelation the Chan Masters are primarily concerned, or the Atman-‘I’ of the Vedantists, is not the far-off, unreachable will-o’-the-wisp we are apt to imagine, but just the within of which we know the without. It is just the other side of the medal, and it lies wherever our senses and our intellect cease to function.”
“The only real service we can render to that which we perceive and interpret in phenomenal existence as ‘others’ is by awakening to universal consciousness ourselves.”
“The Void is not of the nature of a black abyss or a bottomless pit. Rather is its nature ‘vast and expansive like space itself’. It is apprehended as ‘serene, marvelous, all-pure, brilliant and all-inclusive’. Above all does it partake of the nature of light. And it is not anything. For Void is Mind Itself, and Mind Itself is Void.”
“One must know that one is not in order to be able to understand that we are.”
“A myriad bubbles were floating on the surface of a stream. ‘What are you?’ I cried to them as they drifted by. ‘I am a bubble, of course’ nearly a myriad bubbles answered, and there was surprise and indignation in their voices as they passed. But, here and there, a lonely bubble answered, ‘We are this stream’, and there was neither surprise nor indignation in their voices, but just a quiet certitude.”
“Go to the Awakened Masters – and leave all your baggage behind.”
“The Doctrine is the doctrine of non-doctrine, the Practice is the practice of non-practice, the Method is meditation by non-meditation, and Cultivation which is cultivation by non-cultivation. This is the Mind of non-mind, which is wu hsin, the Thought of non-thought, which is wu nien, the Action of non-action, which is wu wei, the Presence of the absence of volition, which is Tao.”
“The seeing of Truth cannot be dualistic (a ‘thing’ seen). It cannot be seen by a see-er, or via a see-er. There can only be a seeing which itself is Truth.”
“There is no mystery whatever – only inability to perceive the obvious.”
“THIS which is seeking is THAT which is sought, and THAT which is sought is THIS which is seeking.”
“As long as we are identified with an object: that is bondage. As long as we think, act, live via an object, or as an object: that is bondage. As long as we feel ourselves to be an object, or think we are such (and a ‘self’ is an object): that is bondage.”
“The purest doctrines, such as those of Ramana Maharshi, Padma Sambhava, Huang Po and Shen Hui, just teach that it is sufficient by analysis to comprehend that there is no entity which could have effective volition, that an apparent act of volition when in accord with the inevitable can only be a vain gesture and, when in discord, the fluttering of a caged bird against the bars of his cage. When he knows that, then at last he has peace and is glad. Non-volitional living is glad living.”
“Let us live gladly! Quite certainly we are free to do it. Perhaps it is our only freedom, but ours it is, and it is only phenomenally a freedom. ‘Living free’ is being ‘as one is’. Can we not do it now? Indeed can we not-do-it? It is not even a ‘doing’: it is beyond doing and not-doing. It is being as-we-are. This is the only ‘practice’.”
“Are you still thinking, looking, living, as from an imaginary phenomenal centre? As long as you do that you can never recognise your freedom.”
“What do you have to do? Pack your bags, go to the station without them, catch the train, and leave your self behind.”
“We are required to cease looking at objects as events apart from ourselves, and to know them at their source – which is our perceiving of them.”
“The practice of meditation is represented by the three monkeys, who cover their eyes, ears and mouths so as to avoid the phenomenal world. The practice of non-meditation is ceasing to be the see-er, hearer or speaker while eyes, ears and mouths are fulfilling their function in daily life.”
“The identified man takes part: the unidentified looks on!”
“What is non-objective relation? Wherever there are others there is a self, wherever there are no others there can be no self, wherever there is no self there are no others, because in the absence of self I am all others. That is non-objective relation.”
“I have only one object in writing books: to demonstrate that there could not be anyone to do it.”
“What we appear to be is a fleeting shadow, a distorted and fragmentary reflection of what we all are when we no longer assume that we are that phenomenal appearance.”
“It is only with total humility, and in absolute stillness of mind that we can know what indeed we are.”
“Humility, metaphysically, implies the absence of any entity to be either ‘proud’ or ‘humble’.”
“Everything cognised is just what is called ‘mind’, and what is called ‘mind’ is just the cognising of everything.”
“Fear, desire, affectivity are manifestations of the pseudo-entity which constitutes pseudo-bondage. It is the entity, rather than the manifestations thereof, which has to be eliminated.”
“As long as there is a ‘you’ doing or not-doing, thinking or not-thinking, ‘meditating’ or ‘not-meditating’, you are no closer to home than the day you were born.”
“Having found no self that is not other, the seeker must find that there is no other that is not self, so that in the absence of both other and self, there may be known the perfect peace, of the presence of absolute absence.”
“If we clearly apperceive the difference between direct apprehension in whole-mind and relative comprehension by reasoning in mind divided into subject-and-object, all the apparent mysteries will disappear. For that will be found to be the key which unlocks the doors of incomprehension.”
“’Sudden Enlightenment’ means precisely the immediate apperception of all that in fact we are. ‘Enlightenment’ is ‘sudden’ only because it is not in ‘time’ (subject to sequential duration). It is reintegration in intemporality. The seeker is the found, the found is the seeker – as soon as it is apperceived that there is no time.”
“The Buddha forbore to specify: as long as there is any ‘one’ to suffer – he will.”
“Whoever thinks as, from, or on behalf of, an entity which he believes himself to be, the more so if he tries to work on himself, by, with, or for such an entity – which is only a concept in mind – has not yet begun to understand what it is all about.”
“In order to be effective truth must penetrate like an arrow – and that is likely to hurt.”
“Affective fixation on the personality of a master, teacher, guru, is a serious obstacle to ‘liberation’: the person of the liberator becomes the jailer … The Chinese Masters told their monks to kill the Buddha if by chance they met him.”
“Destroy ‘the ego’, hound it, beat it, snub it, tell it where it gets off? Great fun, no doubt, but where is it? Must you not find it first? Isn’t there a word about catching your goose before you can cook it? The great difficulty here is that there isn’t one.”